This is a guest blog post by National Recreation and Parks Association, Every Body Walk! Collaborative member and lead organization for July’s Monthly Theme. 

July is the month that we at the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA), our park and recreation agencies, and communities across the country celebrate our nation’s parks and recreation. The theme of the 2018 Park and Rec month is to explore the “undiscovered” roles of local parks and recreation, like science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programming; senior programs; innovative health and wellness opportunities; community celebrations; outdoor education; flood mitigation; maintenance; and more! And we are challenging people to redefine how they think about your local parks and rec, and uncover a lifetime of discovery!

During July, I had the opportunity to visit Tukwila, WA, a community dedicated to providing everyone with a lifetime of discovery through parks. Tukwila is connecting people to water, teaching people about sustainability, restoring waterways through re-engineering the Duwamish and Green Rivers, and more. But what I was most stuck by on this visit was Tukwila’s passion to, #Walk4Change and make parks a place of cultural and community celebration.

The most striking example of this was on our stop at a neighborhood comprised mostly of apartment complexes filled by low-income, New American families (refugees and immigrants). These families currently have no safe place to walk, no park within 10-minute walk, and no safe place to play. Instead children embark in a dangerous endeavor dodging cars to play in the parking lot. But even more harmful than dodging cars is the risk of eviction. The owners of the complex have been known to threaten eviction for families who let their kids play in the lot. This community deserves a change and they deserve a great park.

Through the 10-Minute Walk campaign, Tukwila is creating that change while also providing a lifetime of discovery. They have already secured access to undeveloped land adjacent to the complex through a joint-use agreement with the school. They are conducing walk audits to ensure that people from ages 8 to 80 can walk safely to this vital community gathering place. And they are dedicated to redefining what a park is and how to create a healthy more walkable community that is driven by the community itself and reflects their culture and desired needs.

For instance, while visiting the future park site, one of the staff noticed a group of jars in the middle of the abandoned field. These jars were kimchi, a Korean staple that requires direct sunlight for 24 hours to cure. Without out access to outdoor space, this abandoned lot was the only place they could make this Korean “comfort food” and celebrate their culture.   Through the design process, the community will work together to imagine and design a space that reflects their culture – this may include a place to make Kimchi, a garden to grow native foods, and/or a field to play familiar games. Parks provide people vital places to play, but they are also place where people and cultures can come together to celebrate family, community, tradition, food, and much more.

As we #Walk4Change and #DiscoverJuly help us celebrate parks as places to bring people together. And help us advocate for change in communities like the one in Tukwila that have no park to discover close to home.